NYS Excelsior Scholarship

The Excelsior Scholarship, in combination with other student financial aid programs, allows students to attend a SUNY or CUNY college tuition-free. The scholarship covers any remaining gap in tuition expenses, after other federal and state grants and scholarships are applied, up to $5,500.

New applicants must have their FAFSA and NYS TAP applications on file prior to submitting their Excelsior Scholarship application.

How to Apply

The application for the Excelsior Scholarship can be completed each year on the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) website. The application for the Excelsior Scholarship is not open year-round and is typically available twice a year for 4-6 weeks. Students are encouraged to sign up for application updates on the HESC website to be notified by email or text message when the application becomes available.

General Eligibility Requirements

  • Be a resident of New York State and have resided in New York State for 12 continuous months prior to the beginning of the term
  • Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen
  • Have either graduated from high school in the United States, earned a high school equivalency diploma, or passed a federally approved “Ability to Benefit” test, as defined by the Commissioner of the State Education Department
  • Have a combined federal adjusted gross income of $125,000 or less
  • Be pursuing an undergraduate degree at a SUNY or CUNY college, including community colleges and the statutory colleges at Cornell University and Alfred University
  • Be enrolled in at least 12 credits per term and complete at least 30 credits each year (successively), applicable toward his or her degree program through continuous study with no break in enrollment except for certain reasons that can be documented
  • If attended college prior to the 2021-22 academic year, have earned at least 30 credits each year (successively), applicable towards his or her degree program prior to applying for an Excelsior Scholarship
  • Be in a non-default status on a student loan made under any NYS or federal education loan program or on the repayment of any NYS award
  • Be in compliance with the terms of the service condition(s) imposed by any NYS award that you have previously received
  • Execute a Contract agreeing to reside in NYS for the length of time the award was received, and, if employed during such time, be employed in NYS

If a student does not meet the citizenship requirements listed above, they may still be eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship through the NYS DREAM Act.

Academic Requirements

Students must be working on their first undergraduate degree, with no breaks in enrollment, to be eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship. A student that enrolled in college years ago is not eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship of they return to complete their degree.

Students must earn at least 30 credits per academic year and enroll in at least 12 credit hours per semester. Although the Excelsior Scholarship may only be used for the Fall and Spring semesters, students may enroll in the Summer session to meet the 30 credit-hour minimum and remain eligible the following academic year.

Income Requirements

  • Dependent Students: New York State will sum the student’s federal adjusted gross income (AGI) with their parent’s federal AGI to determine the “Combined AGI” amount.
  • Independent Students: New York State will sum the student’s federal adjusted gross income (AGI) with their spouse’s AGI to determine the “Combined AGI” amount. If the student is not married, the student’s federal AGI is considered to be the “Combined AGI” amount.

Agreement to Reside in New York State

Recipients of the Excelsior Scholarship must reside exclusively in New York State and shall not be employed in any other state for the same number of years as the student received the Excelsior Scholarship. If the student fails to live in NYS for the required length of time, or if the student works in another state, the Excelsior Scholarship will be converted to an interest-free student loan (repayable for 10 years).

Eligibility Review

Students whose current income or prior year adjusted gross income is $125,000 or below due to the disability, divorce or separation of a parent, spouse or the student or the death of a parent or spouse may request a review of their eligibility by completing the Income Eligibility Determination Form and uploading to HESC.

Students who are do not meet the annual credit or continuous enrollment requirements due to one of the conditions indicated below may be able to retain their Excelsior Scholarship awards by completing the Excelsior Scholarship Program Form and uploading to HESC.

You may be eligible to retain your award under the following conditions:

  • You experience a death of an immediate family member
  • You are called to active military duty
  • You interrupt your studies to take care of your newborn child (parental leave)
  • Your medical or health care provider determines that your medical condition or mental health prevents you from beginning or continuing the term or from continuing a full-time course load. 
  • You interrupt your studies to care for an immediate family member, whose medical or heath care provider has determined to need additional support or care, which impacts your ability to begin or continue the term or from continuing a full-time course load.

Please be aware that other circumstances other than those indicated above may not allow you to retain your award under State laws and regulations.